Shenyang Botanical Gardens was established in the late 1950s to showcase plant species from the northern part of China. In 2006 Shenyang hosted the International Horticultural Exposition and the botanic garden site was incorporated into the Expo area transforming the characteristic of the garden forever. Although an exceptional patch of green with more than a thousand species of flowers, plants and shrubs, it no longer represents a traditional botanic garden. The garden area now covers 246 ha and represents examples of garden design and landscapes from around China.

The Expo was organized as a garden zone and an entertainment zone. The garden zone comprised of outdoor gardens among which were international, domestic and themed gardens, indoor exhibition halls featuring exhibits of tropical rainforests among others, a flower street, a green valley, waterfalls, lily ponds, a lake and even undulating hills and pavilions.

Many of the layouts, features and structures put up for the Expo remain. The area is divided by a railway line running through it. The southern part contains the original botanic area, themed gardens devoted to peonies, China’s national flower, azaleas, lilacs and tulips among others, the Cuihu Lake and an amusement park. The northern part features a steam locomotive museum, plant displays from all over China and exhibition areas. Some of the noteworthy exhibits here include the 10,000 sq metre greenhouse displaying 3,000 varieties of roses from around the world and a 12,000 sq metre flower exhibition area.

The site is famous for its annual large scale flower shows such as the Tulip Show in May, the Peony Show in June, the Lily Exhibition in July, lotus and dahlia shows and the Chrysanthemum Festival in November. During these times, the garden is indeed seen at its best. All varieties and colours of the flowers on show are found under trees and along walkways; in short they carpet the area presenting a truly beautiful visual spectacle.

As the garden is huge visitors will not be able to take it in all in one day. For nature enthusiasts the best times to visit are during the spectacular flower shows, when a particular favourite plant is in bloom. The original botanic garden is still a favourite with many as it is quieter and its natural landscaping and collection of plants presents a pleasing aspect.

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Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe.